EU takes action on plastic

The European Commission has announced that it is to take steps to tackle plastic pollution by introducing new laws to reduce throwaway single-use plastics.

The proposal sets out a number of measures designed to prevent and reduce the negative impact that disposable plastic items have on the environment, particularly on marine habitats, where there harmful effects are becoming increasingly apparent. The measures include bans and reduction efforts, as well as labelling and extended responsibility schemes for plastic producers.

Sarah Baulch, speaking on behalf of Rethink Plastic, the Environmental Investigation Agency, said: “The Commission has awakened to the call of European citizens to address the devastating impacts if plastic pollution on our environment. Phasing out unnecessary single-use plastic applications and those for which a sustainable alternative is already available is key to ensure a responsible use of plastics.”

The legislation stood short of setting specific EU-wide targets for reducing plastic food containers and cups, promising to look into this only after six after transposition – a delay which could see countries claiming they are taking the necessary steps as long as any reduction – even a small one – is achieved. This same time period is given for a review of the list of products the legislation addresses.

Baulch added that this lack of urgency was ‘alarming’. “We call on the European Parliament and EU Ministers to put in place such [specific] targets and set a shorter review period,” she said.

Plastic pollution can now be found on every beach on every continent, as well as in the furthest, most inaccessible corners of our oceans. The extent of the harm to marine ecosystems – and to human health – has only begun to be realised. There is estimated to be around 5.25 trillion tonnes of plastic and microplastic pieces already in our seas, and as people are consuming and throwing away more and more each year, it is vital that major agencies and governing bodies around the world act swiftly to arrest the damage.

The announcement comes with just over a week to go before World Environment Day on June 5 -the UN’s flagship day for encouraging awareness and action for the protection of the environment. This year’s theme is “Beat Plastic Pollution”.

To find out more about what you can be doing to reduce plastic use and help the environment, visit the World Environment Day website.